Once again, a jury has returned a verdict against Johnson & Johnson, telling the company in no uncertain terms that they believe its talc baby powder product can trigger deadly ovarian cancer when used by women for personal hygiene.
This was the largest award of all, to cancer victim 63-year-old Eva Echeverria of Los Angeles — over $400 million.
And since that was only the sixth case to go before a jury, with thousands waiting in the wings, J&J is revving up its defenses as it goes forth attempting to make decades of findings as to the dangers of talc simply go away.
But it looks like this will just be business as usual for a company that’s been trying to dismiss that risk for a very long time.
A failure to warn
“We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science,” was how J&J responded to its latest courtroom loss.
But it looks like the company has spent more time guiding the science when it comes to the dangers of talc.
In 1992, J&J spearheaded the creation of the “Talc Interested Party Task Force” (TIPTF) for the purpose of trying to keep a lid on evidence that had been emerging showing that talc was downright dangerous and build a war chest of money to keep lobbying efforts going.
According to expert reviews of confidential documents that have been emerging, the TIPTF paid scientists not only to conduct studies that would find talc is perfectly safe… but also release “false information” to the public… and keep the feds from demanding baby-powder bottles be slapped with warning labels.
And it worked. Because even right now, after the latest courtroom disaster for J&J, the talking heads on the news are still trying to convince women that it might not be dangerous after all.
Jennifer Westhoven, an anchor of CNN’s Morning Express, couldn’t wait to breathlessly tell us no less than five times that we should remember the “science is mixed,” adding, “It’s a little confusing.”
But the juries in these trials don’t seem to be confused at all.
One juror, who served in the first case that came to court, remarked that the company’s internal memos clearly showed how J&J “tried to cover up” and influence regulators. “They could have put a warning on the box,” but “did nothing,” he said.
And that science, which J&J speaks so highly of, has been emerging against talc since the 1970s.
Research has found that talc particles can make their way through a woman’s reproductive tract. And studies have found “a majority” of ovarian tumors they looked at had talc in them.
To further add to J&J’s growing talc problems, in 2006 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC), which is part of the World Health Organization, classified the substance as “possibly carcinogenic to human beings.”
That set off a (highly confidential!) email stream between J&J and its talc supplier, with the latter telling the toxicology director at the company about his plans to take “the whole story to our legislators” and turn up the “political heat (with financial ramifications).” He also said he couldn’t believe the “arrogance and insolence” of IRAC.
It all boils down to the fact that Johnson & Johnson had been forewarned about the dangers of this “baby-safe” product for decades now, which is a whole lot longer than the women who’ve innocently used it have been.
But I think we know enough right now to say that talc is just too dangerous for both moms and babies.
If you like baby powder, there are plenty of brands that make talc-free versions with corn starch — including J&J!
“Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $417 million in talcum powder case” Jen Christensen, August 22, 2017, CNN, cnn.com